Billy Mays Health Insurance Commercials Pulled
Less than two months after pitchman Billy Mays was found dead in his home, the health insurance ads he had done for iCAN Benefit group have been pulled off the air. Although Mays’ family gave permission for the ads to continue, the company decided to stop them.
The iCAN Benefit group bills itself as a company that is “like a close friend who knows all about affordable health insurance,” according to its website. Billy Mays was pitching for a company whose mission is to “improve the lives of those who cannot afford or qualify for medical coverage by providing access to affordable health insurance for everyone.”
This sounds like a noble cause, especially given the current volatile health insurance reform struggles, and Mays reportedly was proud to be promoting the cause of the iCAN Benefit group. And the insurance company was apparently happy to have Mays as a spokesperson, as it is common knowledge that celebrities help sell products.
But it would probably be bad for business to continue running ads featuring a dead celebrity selling health insurance, especially one that apparently died of a drug overdose. According to the official toxicology report released on August 7, 2009, Billy Mays had hydrocodone, tramadol, cocaine, oxycodone, alprazolam, and diazepam in his blood. The autopsy showed that the cause of death was heart disease and that cocaine contributed to his demise, although some experts dispute that claim, saying the drug mixture was the cause.
Having celebrities sell products has been going on ever since radio waves made their way into people’s homes. With the advent of television, the trend continued to grow, and it did not stop there: celebrity endorsements are everywhere, from billboards to movies to park benches. In recent decades we’ve seen everyone from Michael Jackson promoting Pepsi to Mary Lou Retton hawking Wheaties, Stockard Channing doing voiceovers for AIG Insurance, and Kieffer Sutherland fronting products for Ford Canada, even though he was recently sentenced to jail for driving while under the influence.
Yes, iCAN Benefit group seems to have made a wise business decision. With all the fur flying around about health insurance reform, anything that even faintly smacks of bad taste about the issue needs to be toned down. Billy Mays’ death is sad, regardless of the cause. Perhaps his death will serve as a wake-up call for someone, somewhere, of the dangers of drug use.
Associated Press, August 7, 2009
TMZ, August 13, 2009